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GLOUCESTERSHIRE TEAM LEADING THE WAY FOR YOUNG RUNAWAYS

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The first service dedicated to supporting young runaways in the UK, has launched the country's first website dedica...
The first service dedicated to supporting young runaways in the UK, has launched the country's first website dedicated to runaways: Gloucestershire CC's ASTRA (Alternative Solutions to Running Away) project.

The main features of the site are:

  • Separate sections for young people, parents and professionals with useful information, advice and links to other sites / support projects.

  • Young people across the country will have access to support information and advice that will enable them to locate a project in their area that may be able to help.

  • An e-mail facility so that young people who either do not wish to meet face to face, or cannot do so will be able to gain some online advice.

    ASTRA is managed by the council's youth service. Councillor Brian Large, portfolio holder for lifelong learning says: 'ASTRA's results are a tribute to the leadership and imagination brought to the task by the youth service and our county-wide partners. It is a brilliant example of the effective use of resources in preventing damage to vulnerable young people. The county is proud to have given this lead!'

    The website has been developed by Cheltenham-based Marlborough Stirling. The company designed and built the website and continues to run it on its own systems. The project forms part of its Stirling Work In The Community programme which is dedicated to helping local charitable organisations.

    Jonathan Pollinger, manager of the website project at Marlborough Stirling says: 'We are delighted to have been able to support this very worthwhile cause. We hope the website will form an integral part of the excellent work the ASTRA project undertakes.'

    Chief inspector Bill Gaskins was one of the founder members of the ASTRA project team. He says: 'I am proud to be part of a highly effective and successful project that has done so much to help young people who run away from home. It is to the credit of those involved that the project has gone from strength to strength and now pr ovides a service countywide.'

    'Very few young people run away because they want to. Those that do are vulnerable to becoming involved in criminal activity, truancy, drugs, physical and mental abuse. Every young person that ASTRA deters from running away is a positive investment for the future.'

    Click herefor the ASTRA website.

    NOTES:

    1 ASTRA was set up as a three year pilot in Gloucester in 1997 - the result of joint working by the police and social services. Its initial success meant it secured funding from Gloucestershire CC to continue its work and expand the service across the county. Tewkesbury DC, Forest of Dean DC, Stroud DC and Cotswold DC make a financial contribution to enable the service to run in their areas and for the last two years, the Gloucestershire crime & disorder partnership has contributed £40,000 to the project.

    2 ASTRA has reduced the number of young people running away from home or local authority care in Gloucester by 60 per cent between 1997 and 2000. The project continues to go from strength to strength.

    3 The ASTRA project has received a grant from the Government's Children and Young People's Unit for two years to support them in work focusing on the 25 per cent of young runaways most at risk, and developing new approaches to their work. More information on the Children and Young People's Unit can be found here.

    4 Most recently the project has secured funding from the Railway Children to develop the service in Cheltenham - a worker will be in place to begin taking referrals in June 2003.

    5 Between 1995 and 1996, 299 people under the age of 18 went missing in the Gloucester area. In 1997, following concerns raised by the police detailed research was carried out to look at ways of preventing young people from repeatedly running away.

    6 The project's primary aims is to reduce the number of persistent runaways under the age of 18 years.

    7 Of those young people referred to the project by the police, 80% are prevented from becoming persistent runaways.

    8 Young people, the police, social services, youth and community, parents, schools and education welfare can refer young runaways to ASTRA.

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